By Saleh Elias.
The people of Kirkuk won’t be voting in the Iraqi elections because of ongoing issues about whom the area belongs to. Frustrated, some are saying Kirkuk should forget Iraq and become an autonomous region.
It was almost twenty years ago that Omar Nour ad-Din was forced to leave his home in Kirkuk by members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party. The former Iraqi leader was trying to change the composition of the city by forcing Kurdish locals out and bringing Arabs in. And ad-Din, accused of being linked to Kurdish nationalists, was forced to leave everything behind. Although he has since returned to Kirkuk, an Arab family moved into his house and he has never been able to return.
Ad-Din is just one of thousands who have been waiting for some kind of resolution to this long-standing issue. In 2003, that resolution seemed to be coming closer, with the creation of Article 140 of the new Iraqi constitution, post-Saddam Hussein. The Article was supposed to remedy the expulsions, ethnic cleansing and Arabisation that Hussein’s regime had undertaken, through three main steps.
And the deadline for the implementation of Article 140 was the end of 2007. However up until now nothing has happened and it’s been five years since that deadline expired. Kirkuk remains in limbo and because of this, its citizens won’t be able to vote in the upcoming provincial elections – this is due to these ongoing disagreements about rules for ethnic representation.
And today in Kirkuk the leaders of the various different ethnic components in the city seem to have widely varying opinions on Article 140. Some think it’s time to give up on the clause, other’s think it’s essential to work through it.
Sunni Muslims Arabs in the province believe that Article 140 should be considered void. “Article 140 is a mistake in the Constitution,” says MP Omar al-Jibouri from the Iraqiya bloc. “And it should be amended.
It is no longer applicable,” al-Jubairi says, because Kurdish authorities have been encouraging Kurdish families to come back into Kirkuk to serve their own purposes.